Bitter Greens was the first novel I ever read by Kate Forsyth and honestly, from now on it will always have a special place in my heart (and on my bookshelf).
I first stumbled upon Kate Forsyth a couple years ago when I was looking up which authors were attending Supernova in Adelaide. After reading Kate’s profile I thought her books sounded interesting. So then I found a free sample of Bitter Greens (available here from Random House) and a few hours later I was hooked! I then went out and bought the book and within a few days it had forever sealed it’s fate as one of my most loved books of all time.
It had been a long time since a book had hit me like that and it was a wonderful thing. Since then I’ve told so many people about it, I made my boyfriend read it, then gave it to his mum to read (they both loved it!) and then she bought it for all her friends for birthdays and Christmas etc. Since then I’ve slowly been working/reading away at many of her other books, both for adults and children. I won’t be surprised if any of her books get made into films.
I think what I really love about Kate’s writing is that she’s so unique in how she writes. And she writes well. Really well. Even complex issues are written in a way where they just flow, making it easy to keep up with what’s happening.
“I had always been a great talker and teller of tales” – Bitter Greens, Kate Forsyth
Her stories are marvelous in themselves, her ideas and concepts are unique, plus the amount of research she does is mind boggling! It really shows that she’s taken a lot of time and effort and care with her stories, which is probably why they are always at such as high standard. But she also has a way of writing so fluently, you could just keep reading forever. And you want to! Her stories are also very engaging. I found it very hard to put Bitter Greens down because I kept wanting to know what was going to happen!
But I’m sure you now want to know more about Bitter Greens…
Bitter Greens is a magical and wonderful retelling of the Rapunzel story. Set in around seventeenth century France, it tells the stories of three different characters and how they’re lives are connected: writer Charlotte-Rose, witch Seraphina and a young girl Margherita.
It combines fact and history with fairytale, magic, scandal and romance as it intertwines the story of real life author Charlotte-Rose, who was the original author of Rapunzel in with her own story. I particularly love the way Kate has been able to connect the three characters across time and space, building around common themes.
“Each word was shaped with certainty, and I felt, more strongly than ever before in my life, that I had at last found my true path. I knew the story would change as I told it. No one can tell a story without transforming it in some way; it is part of the magic of storytelling.” -Bitter Greens, Kate Forsyth
It begins with Charlotte-Rose being banished from the French court, where she ends up at a nunnery with elderly nun Sœur Seraphina, who tells her the story of a girl named Margarita who was traded many years earlier for a handful of ‘bitter greens’. The story then goes on to tell a tale of witches, romance, a fight for survival and love.
Throughout the novel you, you experience chapters from each of the three main characters (Charlotte, Soeur Seraphina and Margarita), all of which are written thoroughly and beautifully, highlighting the extraordinary ups and downs in the characters lives, taking the reader on a bit of a (very enjoyable) roller coaster. Every time I finished reading a chapter, I was torn between being disappointed because I wanted to keep reading more about that character, and being excited because I got to read more about about one of the other other characters that a couple chapters ago I had been disappointed about leaving behind for a while. One thing to note is that it does have some quite intimate adult scenes (which might not be appropriate for younger readers), but they’re written in a way where they’re expressive, but not over the top.
If you’re part of a book club, you’ll find this a particularly good book to read as Random house also has some book club questions and menu suggestions!
Overall it is a truly magical story which everyone should read!